Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Corruption Update - Katherine Harris, William Jefferson, Brent Wilkes

First up, Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana, who is facing scrutiny for seeking and receiving bribes from a tech company called iGate in connection with an African business deal. Both iGate's CEO and a former Jefferson staffer have already pleaded guilty to bribing Jefferson, whose protestations of innocence have grown perceptibly less strident in recent days.

Over the weekend, FBI agents raided Jefferson's congressional offices, apparently an historic first. The FBI also revealed that they have a video of Jefferson accepting a suitcase filled with $100,000 in cash ... $90,000 of which FBI agents later recovered from Jefferson's freezer, where it was hidden in aluminum foil and food packages.

Apparently those serial numbers have use beyond liar's poker. Who knew?

Second up, our favorite Florida diva, Rep. Katherine Harris, who is under fire for accepting $32,000 in illegal campaign contributions from Mitch Wade shortly before seeking $10 million in federal funds for Wade's company MZM. Wade pleaded guilty earlier this year to bribing former congressman Duke Cunningham. Since the Wade guilty plea, the wheels have come off the Harris campaign, with a downright bizarre series of public appearances and the flight of nearly all her campaign staff.

Harris has not quite been able to get her story straight on her relationship with Wade. After Wade pleaded guilty, it was revealed that Wade and Harris had had dinner together in early 2005. Wade, gentleman that he is, picked up the entire $2,800 tab, which Harris neglected to report in her gift filings. Harris, gentlewoman that she is, asked Congress for $10 million for Wade's company a couple months later.

It's all so civilized.

And now, as Jeremy Wallace reports in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, it has come to light that Harris had dined with Wade in 2004 at the same posh Washington D.C. restaurant, Citronelle. Harris forgot to report that gift on her ethics filings too.

This may not seem like much to Joe or Jane America, but a troubling pattern of misinformation has emerged regarding Ms. Harris's involvement with a confessed briber of members of Congress.

And last, the New York Times published an informative graphic over the weekend on Brent Wilkes, the other defense contractor in the Duke Cunningham case. The NYT's numbers on campaign contributions are off ... significantly off in some places ... but we'll forgive them that in exchange for bringing some illumination to the myriad ways in which Wilkes and Wade used campaign contributions to get the kind of representation in Congress that only money can buy.

Check out our Corruption Files for more info.

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